So far this month we have been introduced to three travel memoir authors – Melissa Burovac, Jill Dobbe and Anne Hamilton – and their unique stories. It has been a pleasure reading about their journeys and how their travels influenced their writing.
The rest of the month I will feature articles by former and current expats and authors Beth Green, Annika Milisc-Stanley and Pamela Allegretto here on my blog.
Today I want to share my own story about how I came to write a travelogue. I hope you enjoy learning more about why I decided to take a break from fiction and publish excerpts from the travel journals I kept while traveling through Nepal and Thailand.
Staying ‘In The Moment’: One Author’s Adventure in Travel Writing
By Jennifer S. Alderson
My travels around this crazy planet have directly inspired the settings, plot twists and several of the characters in my Adventures of Zelda Richardson series. While writing these novels, my journals, emails to friends, and postcards sent home served as memory aids when describing the landscape and people I’d met on the road.
Before making the plunge into fiction, I did try to use these same journals and emails as the basis for a full-blow travel memoir, yet failed miserably. My attempts to write about the events I had experienced after the fact in non-fiction story form, lost all of their spontaneity and (in my mind) their appeal. So I concentrated on writing fiction and regulated my travel journals to sources of background information about the settings of my travel thrillers and mysteries.
My soon-to-be-released travelogue, Notes of a Naive Traveler: Nepal and Thailand, only exists because I recycle. After cleaning out an overflowing closet, I stumbled upon a box full of old printouts, copies of the emails I’d sent to friends and family while in Nepal and Thailand. Most of the pages were crisscrossed with circles and notes I’d made while writing the first draft of Down and Out in Kathmandu.
These printouts were reference material I no longer needed. Because they’d only been printed on one side, I threw the lot onto our family ‘scrap paper pile’ which we use to make grocery shopping lists, or draw and paint on. While folding paper airplanes with my five-year-old son, my husband began reading the back sides of the pages, my old emails. When I got home that night, he asked why I had never published them. Just as many friends and family members have asked me over the years.
After much waffling, I re-read all of the emails and realized I could publish most them; only a few paragraphs were too personal. But the emails alone were about ten pages long; not much of a book!
So I went back through my journals and realized there was a lot of material I hadn’t used in Down and Out in Kathmandu that could be interesting to others who wanted to travel to Nepal and Thailand or volunteer abroad. I threw together the first ten pages and sent it off to trusted beta readers. To my surprise, they were all quite positive and strongly recommended I finish it.
So I spent most of last winter piecing together excerpts from my journal and emails, then editing the mishmash of styles into one cohesive manuscript. By using direct, unaltered excerpts, I finally managed to keep the text ‘in the moment’, something I was unable to achieve the first-time around.
Honestly, I am incredibly nervous about having these excerpts from my personal journal out there. I admire travel writers who are able to unabashedly describe their stupid decisions, strange actions, and sometimes horrid behavior that the stress of long-term travel can bring out in a rational person.
Yet, I am also heartened by early readers’ (and even reviewer’s) positive remarks and interest in my journey. I hope those who read it are able to put themselves in my former self’s shoes and enjoy their time as a volunteer, as well as their trip around Nepal and Thailand.
May it inspire you to buy a backpack and see more of the world!
Notes of a Naive Traveler: Nepal and Thailand
“The ride back to Kathmandu was comfortable and relaxing. There were more overturned trucks (the gas-powered ones seem to tip the most, I’m surprised there weren’t more explosions), goats being herded across the highway by ancient women, children playing games in traffic, private cars and buses alike pulling over in the most inconvenient places for a picnic or public bath, and best of all the suicidal overtaking maneuvers (or what we would call ‘passing’) by our bus and others while going downhill at incredible speeds or around hairpin turns uphill with absolutely no power left to actually get around the other vehicle.”
Trek with me through the bamboo forests and terraced mountaintops of Eastern Nepal, take a wild river rafting ride in class IV waters, go on an elephant ride and encounter charging rhinoceros on jungle walks in Chitwan National Park, sea kayak the surreal waters of Krabi and snorkel in the Gulf of Thailand. Join me on some of the scariest bus rides you could imagine, explore beautiful and intriguing temples, experience religious rituals unknown to most Westerners, and visit mind-blowing places not mentioned in your typical travel guides.
This travelogue also provides insight into the experience of volunteering at a Nepali school and living with a traditional family during a long-term homestay, where religion and ritual still rule daily life.
A touch of self-discovery is inherent to this kind of journey, one spurred on by a young woman’s attempt to figure out what she wants to do with her life.
Notes of a Naive Traveler is a must-read for those interested in learning more about – or wishing to travel to – Nepal and Thailand. I hope it inspires you to see these amazing countries for yourself.
Front cover artwork: ‘Folly in Divinity’, acrylic on canvas by Don Farrell
Release date: May 13, 2017
Pre-order Notes of a Naive Traveler: Nepal and Thailand now on iBooks, Kobo, Amazon, Barnes & Noble NOOK and Smashwords.
About the Author
Jennifer S. Alderson (1972) worked as a journalist and website developer in Seattle, Washington before trading her financial security for a backpack. After traveling extensively around Asia and Central America, she moved to Darwin, Australia, before finally settling in the Netherlands. Home is now Amsterdam, where she lives with her Dutch husband and young son.
Jennifer’s travels and experiences color and inform her internationally-oriented fiction.
Her first novel, Down and Out in Kathmandu: adventures in backpacking, is a travel fiction adventure through Nepal and Thailand.
The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery, her second book, is a suspenseful ‘whodunit?’ which transports readers to wartime and present day Amsterdam.
Both are part of an on-going stand-alone series following the adventures of traveler and culture lover, Zelda Richardson. The third installment, another art-related travel thriller (working title: The Anthropologist) will be released in the Fall of 2017.
To read more interviews and feature articles, please click here.
Enjoy reading this post? Check back here Friday to read expat and TCK (Third Culture Kid) Beth Green’s contribution to my month long celebration of Fiction and Memoirs written by Expats and Travelers.